Darlington YOS, the third smallest in the country, beat off competition from much larger organisations to be awarded the first National Restorative Justice Award by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Praising the Darlington scheme, the chairman of the Howard League panel said: “By using a restorative approach it is known that young people gain a much greater understanding of the harm and damage they have caused and a high proportion feel ashamed of their actions when the impact is acknowledged.”

Since restorative justice was introduced to Darlington in 2008, the number of first time youth offenders entering the court system in the town has dropped by 81 per cent, from 311 to 60 in 2012/13.

Joanne Benson, head of the YOS, said: “As a service we have two aims – welfare and justice. It’s about making sure the right young people are diverted away from the court arena, early intervention is key.


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